The often debated statue at the center of downtown Denton is once again under fire as a citizens group pushes to see it removed.
On Wednesday, afternoon the yet-to-be-named group met at Harvest House to discuss strategy concerning the Confederate Soldiers Memorial just a block or so away on the Denton County Courthouse Square lawn.
Group creators Matt Battaglia and Jonathon Vann launched a Facebook page this week to once again renew discussions about the statue that has drawn mixed feelings in town for years.
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"Whenever I was a kid, we learned about the Civil War, I came here with my dad and I asked, you know it confused me, ‘why is there a statue to the bad guys on our courthouse lawn?’" said Battaglia, who’s lived in Denton all 25 years of his life.
The statue depicts a Confederate soldier standing with firearm in hand on an arch with the words “Our Confederate Soldiers” carved below.
Denton County Office of History Director Peggy Riddle said the statue was fundraised and placed on the Square in 1918 by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
Since then it was named a Texas Historic Landmark in 1970, a 1977 National Historic Registry landmark and a 1981 Texas State Archeological Landmark.
Battaglia and Van’s group want to see the statue relocated to elsewhere like a museum or other Confederate landmark, and replaced on the Square with something else. Both are concerned about the message it sends both to citizens in Denton and visitors to the historic Square.
"We don't want people to come here, visiting and then see this monument to a time when hatred and slavery were king,” said Van who’s also been involved in protests to retain the fracking ban in Denton.
Battaglia also questioned the original motives of the group that placed the statue and if that’s something that Denton residents want to stand.
However, many in town stand firmly in favor of the nearly century old statue; saying it’s an important part of the town’s history.
Gary Claytor, who’s been active in the online debate over the monument, said it’s important to remember that it’s not a monument to the Confederacy, but a monument to the soldiers from Denton County who died doing their duty in the Civil War.
"I think the statue commemorates our ancestors,” said Claytor. “Most probably didn’t have slaves, they were family people, and I think a number of them were forced into fighting a war that came to them."
A plaque placed at the site in recent years adds that the monument is a reminder of history and “is intended as a memorial to Denton County citizens who sacrificed themselves for the community.”
"We can't bury history, we need to learn from it,” said Claytor.
Battaglia said the group’s first order of business is to see if removing a statue is, in fact, what his fellow Denton citizens want.
From there, it could be a hard fight, though.
Riddle said because of those historic protections, any alterations to the statue would be subject to county and state approval, and because of the Archeological Landmark status, there would likely have to be a legal action involved, as well.
A petition to remove the statue was also attempted in 2008.